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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Otto: Container Store proves Big Guava’s time has come

So there we were at Tampa’s social event of the season — the grand opening of the Container Store. I know what you’re thinking. But even though we have bridges that light up at night, a dazzling art museum lacking only a little art to be big-time, and even a posh new restaurant where they serve high tea in the afternoons, this is still Tampa … The Big Guava. A grand opening around here, especially one where they promise free food, is a big deal. And if there was any doubt this was a huge event, although maybe not quite as exclusive as you would think, the traffic was backed up for miles on Westshore Boulevard, with motorists trying to turn into the new store. By the time we got to where you turned, the poor cop was saying there was no more room.
“You might try parking somewhere nearby,’’ he suggested, “and hope you don’t get towed away.’’ We found an office building lot within hiking distance and made our way back to the store, where a band was playing and workers were setting up food stations. I’ll be honest: An entire store dedicated to boxes and bags and household gadgets didn’t seem that special to me. But from the crowds you would have thought Tiffany and Co. had merged with Saks to sell plastic bins and clothes hangers. I guess our dream of becoming America’s Next Great City has come true. I had breakfast last week with my friend John Germany, who told me he had not slept the night before. He wanted to launch a “cause.’’ Germany, the Plant City native, Harvard-educated, co-founder of Holland and Knight — the guy whose name is on the downtown John F. Germany Library and who is one of those chiefly responsible for the University of South Florida being here — has had his share of causes in his 90 years. His particular ire on this morning was the White House. It wasn’t its current occupants so much as a recent decision to close the building to tourists. “It is the people’s house,’’ he said. “It’s not some political tool to be used to scare people with these budget cuts. “I want to organize a protest group and raise the money to re-open the White House to everyone. How much could it take from the national budget to allow citizens who come to the nation’s capital to see this treasure that is theirs to begin with?’’ The administration has said closing the White House to tours was the idea of the Secret Service, which maintains the tours cost $74,000 weekly to operate. I believe there are a couple of options here. One would be to have the president’s family stay on the road, which they seem to do a lot, which in turn would not require any Secret Service presence around the place. The other would be to have the first lady stay home and give the tours herself, which might add a homey touch to something that belongs to all of us.

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